Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) and other human rights organisations have condemned the alleged abduction and torture Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) president Obert Masaraure on Wednesday evening.
Masarure was reportedly abducted and severely tortured by alleged state agents after urging his members to go on strike for three days starting on Monday this week in protest against low remuneration and poor working conditions.
In a press statement posted on their social media platforms, ARTUZ reported that Masaraure was taken from his Waterfalls home in full view of his wife and children.
“They took all cell phones in the house. He was taken to a remote area along Seke Road where he was stripped naked, severely assaulted and interrogated for hours about ARTUZ’s industrial action,” reads some of the statements.
“ARTUZ condemns this shocking violation of the rights of our President and the continued assault against our union in response to our legal and peaceful actions to address legitimate labour issues. We call on the state, as the employer, to immediately stop the persecution.”
In an interview with CITE, ZLHR Communications Officer Kumbirai Mafunda condemned the continued torture of civil society activists.
“It is surprising that there is still ill treatment of human rights defenders in the so-called new dispensation,” said Mafunda.
“Over the past few months we have seen the ill treatment of so many human right activists, what is more concerning are the numbers of human rights defenders, workers and worker organizations who have been threatened, abducted, detained, and tortured in apparent retaliation for exercising their constitutional rights.”
The abduction of Masaraure comes two days after the arrest of another ARTUZ official Godfrey Chanda in Gweru.
Reacting to the news, Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ), Dr Takavafira Zhou told CITE that it is unfortunate that Zimbabwe continues to disregard the basic rights of its citizens at a time the country is trying to chart a way forward.
“We urge the police to arrest and punish whoever abducted Masaraure. It is barbaric that he is being targeted for fighting against the degradation of the teacher’s dignity. It is his right and we will continue to fight against the violation of the fundamental rights and freedoms as enshrined in the Constitution of Zimbabwe and international law,” said Dr Zhou
In a statement MDC national spokesperson Jacob Mafume said the opposition party is alarmed with rising cases of abductions and torture in the country.
“The MDC condemns in the strongest terms the abduction and brutalising of ARTUZ leader, Obert Masaraure by suspected state security operatives,” said Mafume.
“A State which perpetuates violence on men and women who stayed behind to serve the education system even when most teachers were leaving the country is shameless and ungrateful.”
Mafume argued that Masaraure was being targeted for his dissenting views.
“In January, he was thrown in the supermax state penitentiary with robbers and rapists. Now armed bandits are sent to his house petrifying his family, torturing him, striping him naked and leaving him for dead,” added Mafume.
“Even signs of Goodwill from the EU are being washed down the drain by reckless and ruthless behaviour.”
The abduction of Masaraure also came at a time the European Union delegation met with Zimbabwean officials to launch the formal political dialogue between the European Union and Zimbabwe
The discussions focused on areas of interest to Zimbabwe and the EU: investment, trade and economic development; climate change and humanitarian assistance; human rights, democracy, good governance and the rule of law; development cooperation; and regional and international cooperation.